As the US completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan after spending an estimated trillion US dollars, we have to give them credit for their commitment in a cause they believed in. The impact of this withdrawal will have a lasting overture on our relations with the US. The time to concentrate on a unity of purpose with our old friends is now. The grievances on both sides must give way to a mutual trust in each other in a new era of the subcontinent which has emerged now after a protracted war in Afghanistan.

Our grievances can be summed up below. They need to be examined by the US with honesty.

The media in Pakistan had recently taken strong objection to a statement published that the US Defense Department held that “we were using militant groups as proxies against neighboring India and Afghanistan”.

The Kashmiris have the right to seek independence. We are certainly not supporting the home grown movements in India, and they have a number of them. In fact it is the Indians and others who are supporting the Baluchistan Liberation Movement, and other diverse terrorist elements in Pakistan. In the 1965 war, we would have taken Kashmir back from the Indians, and solved the problem once and for all if the US had stood by us as we were better armed and equipped. Instead, the US pressed for a cease fire, and did not support its ally, Pakistan. Perhaps they wanted us to avoid a long and debilitating war.

Pakistan is an old ally of the US. We were members of SEATO and supported CENTO. We were responsible for the defeat of the former Soviet Union with American help that led to the breakup of the Soviet Union. We should not forget when Khrushchev took off his shoe and banged it on the rostrum of the United Nations Assembly and said that he will remove Peshawar from the face of the earth after they shot down in 1960, the US’s U-2 spy aircraft over the Soviet Union. Peshawar was the base for these flights. We must not forget that we have suffered enormous financial losses, and more than that, the lives of our valiant officers and soldiers who are now fighting in Pakistan, in the fall out of the US led war on terrorism in Afghanistan. We must not forget that it is the US that created the Mujahedeen to fight the Soviet Union and supported Osama Bin Laden, and then forgot them after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan. These are the present day terrorists who are the offspring of the Mujahedeen. We must also not forget that because of our friendship with the US, Pakistan refused access to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf to the Soviet Union who had promised us massive support; and for this reason they turned against us. The US is now cuddling close to India which was never its ally.

The US had budgeted forty billion dollars a month in Afghanistan to support their forces, their infrastructure, and their equipment. Pakistan gets three billion dollars a year and some of that does not even come to us. If our Defense Forces had received the same kind of money that the US has been putting into Afghanistan there would have been no terrorists left in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Our valiant Armed Forces have lost more than 5000 Officers and Jawans, and we have lost over 50,000 of our civilians and the toll rises every day. We are fighting a war that we were netted into. The horrendous murder of our children, teachers, Principal, and security personnel at the Army Public School and College Warsak Road Peshawar is a tragic reprisal to our moral understanding to cleanse and secure Pakistan.

We presently have 1.6 million Afghan refugees mostly from Afghanistan according to the UNHCR. This is the leftover of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union where we stood by the US to liberate Afghanistan. Has the cost of these refugees to Pakistan been calculated by anyone?

Having taken the above into account, the recent visit of General Raheel Sharif to the US presages a turnabout in the tide of events. It reminds one of the visit President Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan made to the States when President Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy received our President at the Airport and he was given a rousing reception. It reminds one of the days when Jacqueline Kennedy visited Pakistan. Those were the times when our two countries marched shoulder to shoulder. We supported each other as good friends and billions of dollars have come our way since then, gifted by the US to aid our economy and strengthen our country.

Pakistan is the most strategic country in the world today. Our borders and our neighbours define our immense importance. As we engage in Zarb-e-Azb and our Army demolishes the enemy, the time has come once again in the history of our two nations to combine our efforts to make our great nation Pakistan free of terror and the whole world a safer place to live in. We have to recast our misunderstandings into new latitudes of bonding, trust, and understanding. Relations between true friends can be held in abeyance, but can never be broken.

The writer is a Rhodes Scholar.